ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
The noonday sun spreads a golden glow across the forest as Gisele Martin leads a group of seniors in a journey of understanding the traditional Tla-o-qui-aht names and uses of plants beside the path.
This interpretive walk is a world away, yet only a short distance from Tofino’s community centre where the ‘Seniors Lunchbox’ meets Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., funded by a New Horizons for Seniors grant and with a recent $12,000 boost from Island Health’s Community Wellness grant.
With a focus on healthy aging, this one-time grant has allowed Pacific Rim Hospice Society, who partner with the District of Tofino on the program, to hire a seniors outreach coordinator, Panagiota Thymaras.
Her role is to address the needs of seniors 55+ in Tofino and within Tla-o-qui-aht Communities. The grant also supports Hospice’s Walk for Wellness, a gentle walking group open to all adults, which meets on Mackenzie Beach at Hellesen Drive each Tuesday at 1 p.m.
“We’re doing it because we love seniors,” explains Hospice’s Executive Director, Tarni Jacobsen.
“We’re two different organizations committed to working together with a common goal of reaching seniors on the West Coast.”
“We are so fortunate here in Tofino to live in a place that promotes such health and wellness,” says Thymaras.
“I think that this makes the Tuesday Walking Group on Mackenzie Beach an exceptional place to meet, chat and walk together. The seniors luncheon is also a great way to meet others and be introduced to safe gentle movement practices like stretching, strengthening, yoga and Tai Chi.
“I find working with seniors rewarding in so many different ways. Often I find I am receiving great wisdom and insights to one’s life lived. Seniors often love to share their story, which I believe is such an important part of the aging process, and which requires a sense of support network or simply socialization…We’re excited to see the community connections and the impact these grants make in improving the health of the population,” says Janet Shute, Manager of Partner Engagement, Communications, Planning & Partnerships Portfolio at Island Health.
“In areas like the West Coast, typically the community relationships can be very supportive in a small community and there are often more intergenerational supports. There are generally fewer community recreational services since the population of an area like the West Coast is smaller, however, it’s hoped grants such as this can create unique, community-based programs which directly fit local needs.
“Island Health is committed to continually improving community services to help people remain independent in their homes. Community-based care options are generally preferable. Most people wish to stay in their own homes as long as possible and are better off when they are able to be supported at home, up to and including end-of-life care.”
Thymaras is hoping to bridge the gap to reach seniors who aren’t online, not only for these programs but to ensure they have access to support and emergency services.
“As the new Seniors Outreach Coordinator I would like to personally reach out and invite as many seniors to come for a beach walk on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. or drop by the community centre on Fridays for our program at 10 a.m.”
READ MORE: Tofino nun celebrates 100th birthday